Senators are in near unanimous agreement that President Donald Trump should use swift executive action to stop the separation of children from their parents who illegally immigrate to the United States.
“I support and all of the senators of the Republican conference support a plan that keeps families together,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after the Senate GOP lunch Tuesday afternoon.
The majority leader did not specify what proposal or plan he was referencing, simply stating that, after a two-hour conference lunch, every Republican senator wants to see families kept together.
The Trump administration announced Monday that it will continue to separate children from their parents who immigrated to the U.S. illegally, continuing a practice that was in place well before the president took office.
Under former President Barack Obama, immigrant children were put into separate holding facilities from their parents. The parents would then receive a court order to appear before a judge at a later date, but, without a real incentive to show up for the hearing, many parents fled with their children into other parts of the U.S.
The Trump administration has made it a point to prosecute adults who illegally immigrate, but, due to a 9th Circuit ruling, the government cannot hold an immigrant family for more than 20 days. During that time, the government either has to separate a child from their parents while they are put under legal proceedings, or give the parents a later court date and hope they appear before an immigration judge at that time. (RELATED: US Should Separate Children From Illegals)
Some senators have called on the administration to temporarily stop enforcing the policy while Congress works out a legislative solution.
Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch is circulating a letter around Capitol Hill Tuesday that requests the Department of Justice halt its enforcement of the policy until Congress arrives at a legislative fix for the issue.
Hatch’s letter has caught some eyes and is garnering support, or at least a hat tip, from some within Senate leadership.
“It would be nice if we could at least take a pause … I’d like to see the administration do that. I think our members at least and I’m sure Democrats as well are interested in a solution that not only enforces the law but keeps families together. As you know, a lot of our members are working on that now. I’m hoping the president … will be able to come up with a way to keep families together,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota told reporters Tuesday.
“I would hope the president could put a delay on it (the policy) and see what we pass and see if he agrees,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said Tuesday.
The administration blames parents for bringing their children across the U.S. border illegally. Congressional Democrats, much like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, place the blame on the administration. While the policy has caused a great deal of uproar, the majority of the congressional body isn’t doing anything proactive, using the moment for political gain and posturing. (RELATED: Gillibrand Calls Separation Policy Evil)
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont thinks the administration’s decision to enforce the separation policy shows exactly what kind of character the president has and thinks the president should act immediately to end the policy. If he fails to do so, Sanders believes Congress must come up with a legislative solution.
“Totally disgraceful, un-America action on the part of the president, who is really showing the world and the American people the kind of cruelty that he believes in. … He can end that policy tomorrow,” Sanders told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “If he doesn’t, Congress must act.”
Sanders’ statement that Congress must act if the president doesn’t was echoed in nearly every conversation TheDCNF had with senators Tuesday. The line of thinking — from Republicans and Democrats — is that the president could either do away with the enforcement of the policy, or could halt the enforcement until Congress can work out some sort of bipartisan solution.
“It is inhumane and inconsistent with American values to separate children from their parents unless there are extraordinary reasons to do so,” GOP Sen. Susan Collins told reporters Tuesday. “I understand that there may be some legislation that is needed to deal with family detentions centers and to reorder our immigration system since we have an enormous backlog of immigration cases so that these families with children can be moved to the top of the line.”
The president has not backed down since Monday’s announcement, doubling down on Twitter and in public statements that the White House plans to continue enforcing the law, even in the face of widespread backlash from both parties.
Some Senate Republicans are already working on a fix that could solve both the problems of family separation and the immigration backlog in the courts.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, along with GOP Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Kennedy of Louisiana, put forth a proposal Monday that would create new immigration judges, new facilities to keep families together while they are being held, an expedited pathway for those who immigrate illegally to see a judge and legally apply for asylum. If they are not granted asylum within a 14-day period after their hearing, the immigrant will be deported back to their home country.
“I think Congress can and should solve this problem and I believe we will. I cosponsored a bill with Sen. Cruz this morning to try to both create a way for families to stay together and also get a reasonable number of judges so these cases can be heard,” Kennedy said Tuesday.
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